Apparently, an industry the very essence of which is to try to convince people that a turkey is really an eagle has a rule that condemns lying.
The Public Relations Society of America states: "We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent..." This clause strikes me as if the Burglars Association of America had as its creed "Thou Shalt Not Steal."
Show me a PR person who is "accurate" and "truthful," and I'll show you a PR person who is unemployed.
PRSA wrote a response to Cohen that warrants repeating as many times as possible:
We are encouraged by the immediate response by national PRSA and the opportunity to reiterate the ethical standards to which we should all adhere. It is unfortunate that high-profile situations become media fodder that is then used to paint wide brush strokes over an organization with professionals that seek to reach out and be effective communicators.Dear Mr. Cohen,Regarding your commentary on today’s CBS Sunday Morning, the Board of Directors of the Public Relations Society finds it imperative to affirm the professionalism of public relations practitioners and to take exception with what we regard as a misguided opinion. The PRSA Code of Ethics, to which all members pledge, embodies a strict set of guidelines defining ethical and professional practice in public relations. Professionals who meet the Code’s standards stand in stark contrast to the simplistic, erroneous characterization of the profession you presented.
Contrary to baseless assertions, truth and accuracy are the bread and butter of the public relations profession. In a business where success hinges on critical relationships built over many years with clients, journalists and a Web 2.0-empowered public, one’s credibility is the singular badge of viability. All professionals, including attorneys, accountants and physicians, aspire to ethical standards, and public relations professionals are no different, always striving for the ideal.
For public relations professionals, engaging diverse and often skeptical audiences requires top-flight skills in communications, creativity and even persuasion, but a trust once lost cannot be regained. Unemployment, contrary to your opinion, is reserved for the professional who has lost his or her credibility.
Read the full letter to Cohen on PRSA's Web site.